In directing a biopic on the legendary filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, director Michel Hazanavicius chose the trickiest sections of his subject’s life to dissect. It is the moment where politics overtake filmmaking, where the passionate old fool struggles to step in and out of the cultural revolution, depending on who he can appease and how he can ascend the moral mountain. Godard Mon Amour is a film that more dances around Godard and his style than peer in depth into his shift from filmmaker to aged revolutionary.
For nearly the entire film, we’re told about Godard from the perspective from his waif of a second wife, the lovely Anne Wiazemsky (Stacy Martin). We pretty much have to hear her side of the story considering Godard (Louis Garrel) has a mind so messy he begins the film by stating he doesn’t understand why his wife would leave him. Disillusioned by the world, he decides to become more actively involved with the college students of France who are raging against the government. He no longer desires to make his more notable films of drama and romance, but rather movies that make a statement about the current state of the world. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like politics in your movies, Godard would be the first to chuck a rock at your ideas of cinema, figuratively and literally. Even if it means having to replace his glasses for the third or fourth time in his many scuffles of protests.
There’s a unique aspect of Godard’s life that doesn’t feel as profoundly divulged in this film. There’s a loss of importance that comes with his age, realizing that he’s not the young and spirited rebel he once was. He has been shunned by the very group he loves, as the students protest him as a sellout for crafting such renowned films as Breathless. And so he fights to get into the good fight, despising everything in the world that isn’t related to change, from the childishness of actors to his very fans who hate his regret for his medium.
Considering the artistic choices in Godard’s ever-changing views, I could almost overlook the glaring flaws. Sure, I can accept Garrel’s performance as more subtle than invigorated or even Martin’s not-so-accurate look for Anne. But it always feels as though the film is too shy with its subject and too on the nose with its commentary. This approach is best showcased in a satirical scene where Godard and Anne trot around their home in the nude, chatting about how nudity in a film shouldn’t be pointless. Funny, but the scene continues on long past its expiration date. There are also a handful of scenes where Godard breaks the fourth wall to explain himself as if he’s trying to be as pompous with the audience as he was with his peers.
There are many exciting aspects of Godard’s career, but this film’s approach is akin to a just-the-facts book report, occasionally striking the material with brush strokes of brilliance. While it is intriguing to watch Godard spiral into a maddening desire to transcend past film to a higher plain of intellectualism, I never really felt like I was getting the full picture. Just when it seems as though we’re going to delve deeper into his mindset and filmmaking, we’re pulled back with an artful ode or self-aware jab that takes the viewer out of the experience. Though presentable as a snapshot of his life, I couldn’t help feeling like Godard by the end: frustrated, dissatisfied, and hungry for something more.